ELVIS AND HIS GOOD OL’ MEMPHIS MAFIA MEET THEM LONG HAIRED BOYS FROM LED ZEPPELIN

joe_esposito_led_zeppelin_shirt elvis presley

Sept. 7th, 1976 — Joe Esposito (Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia buddy) wearing a Led Zeppelin 1975 Tour T-shirt at the Holiday Inn hotel with Elvis in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. 

I Was There. And more… as told by Elvis Presley’s step-brother

“I was 14 years old when Led Zeppelin came to Memphis in 1969. As the youngest step-brother to Elvis Presley, I was living at the Graceland Mansion. My divorced mother Dee Stanley married Elvis’s widowed father Vernon Presley on July 3, 1960. Anyway, I went to the concert with a friend and was blown away. John Bonham playing his solo on Moby Dick, Jimmy Page stroking his Les Paul with a fiddle bow, John Paul Jones laying down heavy bass, and of course the driving voice of Robert Plant. While growing up as Presley’s step-brother I was no stranger to great music. But it was Led Zeppelin that became MY MUSIC while growing up the King.

I started touring with Presley in 1972 when I was 16. I always had Zeppelin’s music with me. In 1974 while at the LA Forum Led Zeppelin came to see Elvis. Later that night after the show Robert, Jimmy and John Paul came to Elvis’s suite at the hotel across the street from the Forum. I met them as they came off the elevator and walked with them to Elvis’s room. I introduced myself, shook their hands and got their autograph. Of all the people I met during my life with Elvis, it was only Led Zeppelin’s autograph that I asked for.

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SHAWN DICKINSON ILLUSTRATIONS | SOCAL KUSTOM KULTURE KARTOONS

“Ghost Rider” by Shawn Dickinson

A product of SoCal, Shawn Dickinson grew up inspired by the surrounding counterculture of custom Hot Rods, Surfers, and the iconic art that was produced by the legends before him– you see the classic Rat Fink and Tiki influences that, in his hands, are at once timeless and fresh.  He got his chops as a cartoonist for the underground Untamed Highway, which was chock full of 1950’s Kustom Kulture. Dickinson went on to illustrate posters for Rockabilly and garage bands, not to mention numerous comic projects and commissioned works. 

I’m a big fan of the guy’s work.  As he describes it, Dickinson’s creations and medium are a throwback fusion of, “Imagery stylistically inspired by 1930’s cartoons (what I feel was the craziest era for cartoons), mixed with iconic imagery inspired by 1950’s & 1960’s rock n’ roll, cars, bikes, etc. (what I feel was the craziest era for all those things). And I still paint with watercolor and India ink.”  Love it.

Shawn Dickinson featured in Car Kulture DeLuxe Magazine

“Smooth” by Shawn Dickinson

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HOLLYWOOD’S INNOVATIVE KUSTOM KULTURE LEGEND | DEAN JEFFRIES

Dean Jeffries Pontiac GTO Monkees Car - Monkeemobile

Pontiac GTO Monkeemobile built by Dean Jeffries. The car was featured on the NBC network’s comedy television show “The Monkees” starring Davey Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork. Created from two Pontiac GTOs, the visually radical Monkeemobile was an instant hit with fans of the show. This shot shows the dragster-inspired parachute deployed at Dean Jeffries Automotive Styling offices on Cahuenga Boulevard in Los Angeles. 

Legendary painter, customizer, racer, and stuntman Dean Jeffries is one of those guys whose soft-spoken nature has allowed other, more self-promoting figures (read: George Barris, the Don King of Kustom Kulture) to steal a lot of his thunder. Barris has tried to hire on Jeffries as an employee many times over the years, and Jeffries always rebuffed– preferring either to rent his own space, or work freelance. Their histories are forever entwined, and the tales of rivalry, and particularly Barris’ trickery, are the stuff of legend. Many of Dean Jeffries’ most recognized works (like the Monkeemobile, for one)– George Barris came behind and unrightfully claimed credit for them. It’s dumbfounding and downright sleazy– we’ll get to that later.

Dean Jeffries grew up immersed in Los Angeles auto culture– his dad was a mechanic, and next door to his dad’s garage was a bodyshop. The young Jeffries was drawn to the creative expression allowed in bodywork over turning a wrench (“too greasy!”) like his ol’ man– the bodyshop became his hangout of choice. After returning from the Korean War, he became buddies with another future legend of Kustom Kulture— Kenny Howard (AKA Von Dutch), and started pinstriping.

“We’d do freelance pinstriping on our own, then get together and hang out. I also worked during the day at a machine shop doing grinding. But pinstriping really took off then–I was painting little pictures and medallions on cars. My first job was pinstriping a boat. I didn’t have no shop back then. You were lucky if you got $5 for a whole car. If you got $25 in your pocket in a day you were King Kong. I thought it was great.” –Dean Jeffries

More than anything else, I’ll always remember Dean Jeffries for painting the infamous “Little Bastard” badge on the Porsche owned by his racing buddy– James Dean.

“For years Barris claimed he painted it– now he just says he can’t remember and somebody in his shop painted it. Sure. I used to bum around with James Dean. I wasn’t trying to be his movie friend. We just had car stuff between us. We hung out, got along together real bitchin’. But one day Dean asked me to paint those words on his car, and I just did it.” –Dean Jeffries

Love this pic. There’s the obvious knockout pinup, Carol Lewis (Dean Jeffries’ high school sweetheart in front of his ’47 Merc), posing for his pinstriping pleasure, but also check out Dean Jeffries’ paint box. “The Modern Painter Has Arrived.” It’s an incredible piece of work in itself.

“The above shot comes from a publicity shoot done ironically, at Barris’ shop, with George behind the camera. Jeffries was just out of high school, and Barris tried to hire him, but Jeffries wanted to sub-contract to Barris, so Barris cleaned out a storage area in his shop, and Jeffries based himself out of there. Pretty slick on Barris’ part– he could grab Jeffries any time he wanted a striping job.” –Thanks to Irish Rich for the story on Carol Lewis.

Carol Lewis’ custom 1956 Chevrolet– Dean Jeffries high school sweetheart.  –image via Kustomrama “It was Jeffries who was having dinner across the street from Barris’ shop when he spotted the smoke coming from the start of the disasterous Dec. ’57 Barris shop fire. He ran across the street and broke in, and managed to get Lewis’ 56 Chevy out of there before the flames got too out of control. Lewis’ Chevy was done in a similar style as Jeffries’ ’47 was.” –Irish Rich

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ED “BIG DADDY” ROTH | RAT FINK KING OF SOUTH CALI KUSTOM KAR KULTURE

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

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Probably best known for his iconic “Rat Fink” cartoon creation (I’m personally not a fan of Rat Fink, or any rat for that matter…) Ed “Big Daddy” Roth (3/4/32 – 4/4/01) is synonymous with SoCal’s Kustom Kulture & Hot Rod craze of the late 1950s & 60s.   He had a deep bag of tricks– an all around renaissance man skilled as a barber, cartoonist, display merchant for Sears, and expert auto painter / customizer.   He’d been to school for auto engineering and served a stint in the Air Force from 1951-’55. After the service, Roth supported the wife and five kids workin’ for the man at Sears– until ’58 when Roth finally opened-up shop full-time (working with “The Baron” and his grandson Kelly) and was well on his way to stardom. Insane fiberglass bodywork, and intricate custom paint jobs were his speciality. Legendary Kustom Kulture contemporaries of Ed Roth’s included Sam & George Barris, Dean Jeffries, and Kenny Howard, AKA Von Dutch.

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's business card

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's business card

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth on a custom Harley-Davidson chopper.

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's shop

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's custom shop --Roth Studios.

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ed roth sticker

"SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FUZZ" --Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

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